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Zimbardo round-up

zimbardoThe whirlwind of publicity for Philip Zimbardo’s new book The Lucifer Effect continues. Here’s a round-up of recent interviews, blog posts and other commentary:

Zimbardo’s 2 April lecture at MIT can be viewed online via this link.

The Situationist Blog reported (13 April) on Zimbardo’s 3 April appearance at Harvard Law, and a video of the lecture will apparently be posted on their website this week.

Plenty of other video around too, including this interview with The Edge (via Mind Hacks), and Zimbardo’s appearance on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, which can be watched here.

The UK’s Sunday Times (8 April) carried a piece that covered Zimbardo’s work alongside desciptions of the classic Milgram and Asch studies on conformity and obedience, trying to explain the origins and nature of evil:

Three devastating psychological experiments in the 20th century seemed to suggest answers to these questions. The first — the Asch conformity experiment — showed that people could be led into denying the evidence of their own eyes by their desire to conform, blindly to accept the authority of the group. The second — the Milgram experiment — showed that people were prepared to subject others to potentially lethal electric shocks because they were encouraged to do so by authority figures. And the third — the Stanford prison experiment — showed that perfectly ordinary well-balanced people could be turned into savage tyrants or cowering victims simply by the situations in which they found themselves

The New York Times published an interview in Q & A format with Zimbardo on 3 April, covering familiar ground of the Stanford Prison Experiment and the professor’s thoughts on the Abu Ghraib scandal:

A. [...] I was willing to be an expert witness for Sgt. Chip Frederick, who was ultimately sentenced to eight years for his role at Abu Ghraib. Frederick was the Army reservist who was put in charge of the night shift at Tier 1A, where detainees were abused. Frederick said, up front, “What I did was wrong, and I don’t understand why I did it.”

Q. Do you understand?

A. Yeah. The situation totally corrupted him. When his reserve unit was first assigned to guard Abu Ghraib, Frederick was exactly like one of our nice young men in the S.P.E. Three months later, he was exactly like one of our worst guards.

Not everyone is complimentary about Zimbardo’s work. Bioethics Blog quotes Alan Milstein:

[...Zimbardo] has made a career and, apparently, a nice living on a human research project regarded by most bioethicists today as patently unethical because it offered all risk and no benefit to the student subjects…

Back in December 2001 British social psychologists Alex Haslam and Steve Reicher conducted a replication of the Stanford Prison Experiment, and later published several academic articles based on this work. More details and links to many of the articles in this Psychology and Crime News post from March 2006.

Photo credit: shams1shaikh, Creative Commons License

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